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Regional train heading west from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Photo by Christian Allinger (CC BY 2.0).

Travel and saving with the German Rail Pass, Feb-Mar 2017

Above: Regional train heading west from Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Christian Allinger).

I’ve set foot inside Germany at least once each year since 2001. I’m back “home” for the 17th consecutive year with the following “mostly Bayerisch” itinerary:

  • München
  • Garmisch-Partenkirchen
  • Mittenwald
  • Reutte in Tirol (Österreich)
  • Oberstdorf
  • Augsburg
  • Heidelberg

Thanks to their springtime 20% promotion, I’ve secured a 2nd-class German Rail Pass for seven days of travel inside one month.

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Deutsche Bahn, IC 2218, Oberes Mittelrheintal, Upper Middle Rhine Valley, Germany, fotoeins.com

The nebulous transition

I’m racing past kilometer 554.

The simple black and white sign on the east flank of the river counts down to the end, to the river’s mouth where the mineral-rich mud and silt enter the North Sea. Another sign tells me what this famous rock-face landmark is.

There’s barely enough time at Loreley to detect the hint of a siren’s call, as the train marches to the next bucolic town. Though small in size, the town and its buildings seem to stand fast in a “group hug” of the river bank in a futile attempt to hold back the rush of the Rhine.

This feels like routine, a journey in western Germany which I’ve repeated many times over the last 15 years. With heavy heart, I’ve departed my adopted hometown of Heidelberg for the umpteenth time. I’m traveling north to meet with friends I haven’t seen in a couple of years.

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Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, Werner77, Pixabay, Creative Commons license

How I’m saving with the German Rail Pass, Nov-Dec 2015

Continuing the streak of annual visits to the country, I’m “home” for the 15th consecutive year with the following itinerary over four weeks in November and December:

  1. Berlin to Rothenburg ob der Tauber
  2. Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Regensberg
  3. Regensberg to München (Munich)
  4. München to Karlsruhe
  5. Mainz to Koblenz
  6. Koblenz to Bielefeld
  7. Bielefeld to Köln
  8. Köln to Magdeburg
  9. Magdeburg to Hamburg
  10. Hamburg to Berlin

Thanks to their 20% promotion with Rail Europe, I’ve purchased a 2nd-class German Rail Pass for ten days of travel inside one month for $440 (Canada) / $332 (USA).

Cross-Country Savings

I’ve listed in the table below point-to-point fares. I checked fares for individual “legs” on my travel dates at the Deutsche Bahn website, taking note of the lowest and highest 2nd-class fares in both “Sparangebote” (save-money offers) and “Normalpreis” (normal price) categories. The last farecheck occurred on 12 February 2017. I estimated distances using “Route” (road distances) values returned by the Germany distance calculator.

Route, Nov-Dec 2015 Distance Sparangebote Normalpreis
1. Berlin – Rothenburg ob der Tauber 500 km € 29—89 € 117—131
2. Rothenburg ob der Tauber – Regensburg 200 km € 23—29 € 32—57
3. Regensburg – München 130 km € 20—29 € 27—42
4. München – Karlsruhe 280 km € 29—55 € 66—79
5. Mainz – Koblenz 100 km € 19 € 19—22
6. Koblenz – Bielefeld 300 km
€ 29—39
€ 62—65
7. Bielefeld – Köln 190 km
€ 19—29
€ 39—49
8. Köln – Magdeburg 430 km € 29—57 € 87—90
9. Magdeburg – Hamburg 280 km € 29—39 € 43—67
10. Hamburg – Berlin 280 km € 29—45 € 78
TOTALS
(€1 = USD $1.10)
≈ 2700 km
€ 255—430
$ 281—473
€ 570—680
$ 627—748
10-day German Rail Pass
(with 2015 autumn 20% promotion)
USD $332 USD $332
$ USD saved < $141 $295—416

The Rail Pass does not restrict the passholder to a specific train on a given date and time. To save the most money, purchasing individual Sparpreis fares ahead of time would be the way to go. I could save money by purchasing individual “Sparangebote” fares well in advance. Otherwise, there are generally available “Normalpreis” fares, which are less restrictive but more expensive. The price difference between Sparangebote and Normalpreis fares is larger with long-distance rail journeys over 250 km.

I demand schedule flexibility, and that’s why I purchase a Rail Pass in advance. If I decide at the last mintue to stay longer or leave early, I can’t change a “fixed” ticket without incurring extra fees. My 10-day Rail Pass allows me the freedom to take a train on any day at any time. This versatility saves me at least USD $300.

Deutsche Bahn lists the following conditions for their two categories.

Sparangebote: Preis für alle Reisenden. Bei Aktionsangeboten und regionalen Angeboten gelten besondere Konditionen. Zugbindung, d.h. Ihre Fahrkarte ist nur in den auf Ihrer Fahrkarte aufgedruckten Zügen gültig. Umtausch und Erstattung 15 EUR; ab 1. Geltungstag ausgeschlossen.

Normalpreis: Preis für alle Reisenden. Volle Flexibilität (keine Zugbindung/unabhängig von der angegebenen Verbindung auf der gewählten Strecke). Umtausch und Erstattung kostenlos, ab dem 1. Geltungstag 15 EUR.

My translation is:

Savings offers: price for all travelers. Conditions apply to special and regional offers. Your ticket is valid only as printed for the specified train. 15 EUR charge for exchange or refund before the first valid day; no exchange or refund afterwards.

Normal price: price for all travelers. Full flexibility (no specific train / regardless of specific connection on the chosen route). No charge for exchange and refund before the first valid day; 15 EUR charge afterwards.

Berlin Hauptbahnhof, LoboStudioHamburg, pixabay, Creative Commons license

Berlin Hauptbahnhof (LoboStudioHamburg, on Pixabay)


Previously, on German rail and rail passes

•   German Rail Pass, November-December 2014
•   German Rail Pass, July-August 2013
•   German Rail Pass, late-2012 RTW
•   Yet another trip with German Rail (2011)
•   Across the country with German Rail
•   Saving money with a German Rail Pass
•   Flexibility with a German Rail Pass

The two photos are from Pixabay by Werner77 (H Hbf) and LoboStudioHamburg (B Hbf), respectively; both photos are used with the generosity of the Creative Commons license. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-7iZ.

No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions Disclosure: No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions. I have not received any compensation for writing this content, and I have no material connection to German Rail Pass, Rail Europe, or Deutsche Bahn.

Should I buy a German rail ticket in advance?

A friend, an astronomy colleague, and kind reader from the USA asked:

I was just trying to figure out the German train booking system for a trip I’m taking between Frankfurt am Main and Bonn this July and thought I’d ask you before doing something stupid. Would it be easier/better to buy ahead or should I just want until I’m in country and buy it at the airport.

An excellent question about Deutsche Bahn (DB)

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